December 2013 Archives

There's nothing more sorrowful to me than to witness someone in the news who has suffered a a terrible, violent loss of a loved one. Far too often that is coming as the result of gun violence.  And often that parent or friend resurfaces after months or years as an energized reformer, testifying before Congress for tougher gun laws, speaking to groups about drunk driving, or visiting classrooms to speak about the dangers of drug abuse. I have great admiration for those who somehow rise above the grief and resolve to prevent other tragedies like they have endured.

But there's a niggling feeling that goes along with that admiration.  Why does it seem  we have to suffer agonizing, personal losses within our own family to become actively involved in gun control, or in Mothers Against Drunk Driving? Do we need that personal, visceral suffering to take that leap into action?  I can see that same concern coupled with emotional distance within myself.  It hurts to read about a high school student senselessly killed, but it's not too, too difficult to move on with our lives and relegate that tragedy to that box in the back of our heads where we store all the painful stories in the world. 

Maybe that's our real task as citizens and human beings: to find a way to move ourselves to action before suffering a personal loss.  Yes we need the energy and passion of a mother who has lost a son, but think of the multiplying effect if a great number of others could contribute even 10% of her passion.

I find it distressing, for instance, to read about another politician who has always loudly spoken against giving rights to homosexuals suddenly softening that stance and turning, if not 180 degrees, then at least 100, toward tolerance.  Why?  Because he has just found out his own son is gay.  A son he loves and knows to be a kind and good person, and who is that same exceptional person after coming out as he was before.  Isn't it just possible to extend that compassion and understanding beyond our own families?  Isn't it just possible to educate ourselves and become active in the campaign for sensible gun laws before our own child is gunned down, or takes his own life with a handgun in the home?  Isn't it just possible to see the fairness in extending healthcare benefits to include mental health before a sister is diagnosed as bipolar and begins a terrifying downward slide? Couldn't we now, today, put clergy and church hierarchy on notice that no sexual abuse of children will every again be tolerated?

The mark of a civilized society, to me, is in just that extension of compassion beyond our own families.  We need to write that letter to our representatives now, while the stranger's family is grieving.  I want to vote for gun background checks now, before the next horror befalls people I don't know.   I don't want to need the excruciating pain of a personal loss to spur me to action.

To that end I will vote in as my representative in government men and women who have just such extended compassion.  Who will fashion and implement policies designed to prevent the tragedies that bring the next wave of grieving parents into their subcommittees.
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Congratulations to Mary Barra, new CEO at GM and the first woman to lead a major auto company. General Motors has got to be better for it.  About time!

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